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“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’ So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:1-9).
 
Every canonical Gospel makes it clear that the empty tomb was discovered by women, and in each account, Mary of Magdala is among them. In John’s Gospel, she is the only one to discover the empty tomb. She runs to tell Simon Peter and “the other disciple,” and they set out for the tomb. When they arrive and enter, it is the other disciple who “saw and believed.” Peter does not yet believe. Both, however, “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
 
It is indeed a dark moment for them. Mary, already overcome with grief, finds that her beloved teacher has been taken from his resting place. She runs to her companions, but they too don’t understand what has happened and offer no comfort. The empty tomb is the bridge between Jesus’ earthly ministry and his resurrection. It is through this dark moment of unknowing that the disciples must pass to encounter the risen Jesus, the life that will come from death.
 
It is ironic that on this day, the summit of our Christian celebration, we are presented with an account of the confusion, uncertainty, and sorrow of that first Easter. This gospel reading speaks to our own experiences of sadness, grief, and death. Often, we don’t understand, we don’t see how or where God is working in these situations. We want to trust, but we find ourselves lost in the darkness, hoping to find a light. In the readings that follow Easter we are given the hope that ultimately light and life will have the final word.
 
– How have you been able to find God at a time of darkness or grief?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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We are given the Eucharist, and we must journey with Jesus to the cross.
 
Lord Jesus,
You loved us so deeply that you were
willing to love us unto death, death on a cross.
When we see brothers and sisters
who are suffering and afflicted,
let us see you, and let us respond
with a love “surpassing all understanding”—
your love. Amen.
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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“The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest’” (Matthew 21: 8-9)
 
“They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him” (Matthew 27: 30-31).
 
Holy Week is a week of paradox. It begins with the triumph of waving palms and shouting hosanna to the son of David. But it soon becomes a very sad scene. The same king whom the crowds glorified is betrayed with a kiss, arrested, tortured, and finally crucified. Triumph is quickly transformed into tragedy.
 
How do we understand this paradox of the Lord’s Passion? The names “Palm” Sunday and “Passion” Narrative are not contradictory terms but rather are melded together in the Paschal Mystery which inseparably unites the dying and rising of Jesus. It weds tragedy to triumph, shame to glory, sorrow to joy.
 
It is here that the Paschal Mystery has a connection to our lives. We cannot wait for all our crosses to be lifted so that we can experience only complete joy. For us, joy comes mixed with sorrows; roses bloom, but the thorns remain.
 
Through the Passion readings we see that Jesus lived the full gamut of human reality. He expressed happiness with his family and friends, satisfaction in accomplishing his mission, fulfillment from seeing the fruits of his labor. Jesus also experienced the pain of disappointment, anger, betrayal, rejection, and both physical and mental torture. By walking closely with Jesus in these days of Holy Week, we remind ourselves that he is walking closely with us through every step of our sorrow and joy.
 
– What lesson does the suffering of Jesus teach you about your own suffering?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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As for his beloved friend, Lazarus, Jesus is our resurrection and life.
 
God of freedom, you loose all bonds
that hold us in darkness and sin.
Heal the places where our wounds and pride
have kept us distant from you
and one another.
Free us from our tombs, O Christ. Amen.

 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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“When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’
Martha said, ‘I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’ He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Sir, come and see.’ And Jesus wept.
Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, ‘Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.’ And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go’” (John 11:17, 21-27, 33b-35, 39-44).
 
When Lazarus first fell ill, Mary and Martha probably became pretty worried. Then again, they were good friends of Jesus of Nazareth, the one sent by God, who had cured so many people. They believed that all they had to do was let Jesus know and he would come heal their brother. Imagine their disappointment, their feelings of betrayal, when Jesus did not come soon enough, and Lazarus died.
 
When Jesus finally arrived, Martha and Mary each greeted him with the same accusation, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 
Jesus accompanied both sisters in their own experience of grief, confirming the faith that Martha spoke aloud and joining in Mary’s tears. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus encounters people in dark moments and invites them into a new fullness of life through physical and spiritual healing. His journey through death to resurrection offers us hope in new life no matter what darkness may come. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said.
 
“Lazarus, come out! … Untie him and let him go.” These words carry meaning for us, too. We may be living in the dark, dank, dreary tombs of our bad habits and wrong choices, bound by prejudices, desires, attachments, and addictions. Even when we become dead to the fullness of life or to the needs and feelings of others, Jesus can resurrect us. The witness of history is that he has resurrected millions from sin, from inertia, from insensitivity, from selfishness, and his touch has not lost its ancient power.
 
– When have you experienced resurrection, or new life, coming from an experience of death or darkness?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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